Thursday, February 24, 2011

Architecture Thesis Project: Floating City

In the beginning of last Fall semester, the thesis students were allowed to choose one thesis professor who they want to work with for their thesis project. There are seven thesis professors to choose from, and each of them present their own theme (generally broad topics) that students' project will relate to. That explained, I chose a topic about 'Performative and Responsive Architecture'. I have always been interested in wondrous devices, apertures, apparatuses, robotic systems that operates and moves. My interest in such area continued to grow as my interest in change in environment, culture, and society developed in last couple years. I am interested in converging these two topics in order to design a better architecture that performs and responses to its changing environment, whether the change is coming from the environmental threats like rise of sea level and natural disasters or the social changes and urban lifestyle.

The thesis I am proposing is a floating city. The proposal stems from the issue of swelling of population and swelling of sea water in London (but even in other coastal cities that are vulnerable to the same issues). The city will continue to grow where housing costs are already high and will be continue to become more vulnerable to flooding due to rise of sea level. It is not ideal to expand the city in suburban areas as the consequence includes overtaking the green belt and destroying natural habitats. It is best to keep the city as it is but expand on the water surface.

My research for this topic has been going on in different directions simultaneously. One idea that I have been researching on is, how does the building float/sits on water? Do buildings become like a boat? Or are they supported by stilts? How would they be different structurally from the buildings on land? Another idea that I am researching on is, how does such community function when their community is built on water? How does people travel around the community? What kind of economic opportunity does such community offer? What kind of living or lifestyle does it demand? How will such community be successful?

These are on-going questions I am dealing with right now, and I hope to find answers to these questions in the near future through my project. Stay tuned!


  1. I am blown away by your ambitious ideas of the floating city.

    You are using the artichtiure skills that you have to helped build a better world and fight against natural disasters. I am so genuinely glad to know that there are people out there to create buildings to last and benefit the people.

    I took the class earthquakes last semester at USC, and our professor showed us pictures of poorly constructed building just to get fast money, but knowing that it would not last. They would use the cheapest materials, not wrap the wire around the rebar enough, sometimes not use rebar at all, or just poorly constructed. Theres areas are poorer countries that do not have much building regulations, or mostly people that do not regulate them. Thousand of people would die, just because someone did not feel like putting the effort or little more money to make the appropriate building.

    I love your idea. You're taking situations of natural disasters that we cannot control, but do our best to save as much as possible.

    I think it is amazing.

  2. One must address the question, “How will the city float at all?” The intuitive answer is that the density of the city will have to be less than that of water. This is usually a problem because as cities grow the population density increases and there is an increase of mass within an area over time. Ultimately, when the density of the city exceeds water’s density the city will sink.

    Another matter of interest is how the city will deal with inertial effects. It is common knowledge that whenever someone steps towards one direction on a small canoe the canoe begins to move in the opposite direction. All this happens because of Newton’s law of inertia, which states that the conservation of momentum under the absence of forces is constant. On larger scales cities will have some motion if there is nothing to anchor it.

  3. My degree project is quite close to yours.
    I started the searching two years ago ,slowly.
    In my coutry we have huge river floods, and now like in every 2 years... so i coudn't wait any more as an architecture student.
    It would be nice to have some contact from you and just share some view.